The U.S. Open is the national golf tournament of the USA. As the name suggests, this really is an open, with a number of spots available to qualifiers from across America and internationally. As one of men’s golf’s four major championships, this is an enormously prestigious prize to win for any golfer but especially for Americans who relish the chance to prove themselves on a selection of the most difficult golf courses the country has to offer. Founded in 1895, this is the second oldest major in golf and also typically the one with the biggest purse, meaning players are equally rewarded in terms of prestige and finances.
The USGA, who host the U.S. Open, try to make this an all-round test of golf and, subject to the host course, often like to defend par by setting up courses to play fast, firm and incredibly difficult. A score of level par or worse has been enough to win this championship a number of times, with five over the winning score in both 2006 and 2007! With a strong field doing battle over iconic courses, the U.S. Open is must watch golf and proves that a plethora of birdies and eagles are not a prerequisite of excitement and drama.
2022: Matthew Fitzpatrick
Matt Fitzpatrick did not have to ponder for too long when asked if, after winning the US Open at the site of his US Amateur win nine years earlier, he believed in fate. “I thought this could be it, this is the time,” said Fitzpatrick of his mentality before the final round of the 2022 US Open and he duly came out on top of a hectic day’s golf to win his maiden major championship.
Known as one of the hardest workers in golf, Fitzpatrick has worked diligently to add distance off the tee to an already excellent collection of skills. He utilised that distance, along with his elite ball-striking and reliable putting, to put himself into a strong position. Sunday at a US Open requires more than just skill though and it was the mental fortitude of Fitzpatrick to roll with the punches and dig in that separated him from Will Zalatoris, Scottie Scheffler and the other world-class golfers in the chasing pack.
Fitzpatrick’s first major win will forever be remembered for the incredible shot into the 18th green from a fairway bunker. That, followed by a nerveless two-putt for par, set the challenge for playing partner Zalatoris whose missed putt for birdie confirmed the win for Fitzpatrick and started tear-jerking celebrations with his family and caddie, Billy Foster.
There were plenty of very good performances by the chasing pack and some – such as Rory McIlroy – will be left ruing the missed opportunities to get their hands on the latest major. The organisers will be well pleased though as the tournament was a brilliant spectacle and the level of play was exceptional.
2021: Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm is only 26 and yet his maiden major championship win has been a long time coming. That speaks to how good he was as an amateur and how quickly he rose to the challenge of professional golf. Coming into the 2021 US Open, Rahm was a multiple winner on the PGA Tour and European Tour as well as a Ryder Cup star for Europe. The first of those wins came in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines so it was fitting that his first major win came at the same venue.
Despite coming in for some criticism for a lack of variety, the South Course at Torrey Pines came up with the goods in terms of producing a dramatic conclusion to a US Open. Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau were all bang in contention at one stage or another on Sunday but they, and others, saw their challenge fade on the demanding back nine at Torrey. Rahm, by contrast, came alive when it mattered most, making back to back birdies to close out his round and get to -6 which was one more than Louis Oosthuizen could manage on his way to yet another second place at a major. This was the sixth time the South African came up just short in a bid to add to his sole major, the 2010 Open.
There was a lot of talk afterwards about this result being karma for the incredible bad luck that befell Rahm at the Memorial. That fit a compelling story arc but don’t think it ends here. With this win, Rahm became the number one ranked golfer in the world and there is no reason for that, or for his run of winning majors, to end anytime soon. He is very much the man to beat right now and he could well follow in the footsteps of his countrymen in being a Ryder Cup talisman come September.
2020: Bryson DeChambeau
Bryson DeChambeau has always done things his own way. He has no problem going against the grain if he believes there is an edge to be gained and there was much scoffing and eye rolling at his plan to overpower and outmuscle the West Course at Winged Foot ahead of the 2020 U.S. Open. With the penal rough and tricky layout, power was not the answer according to received wisdom. Nobody was laughing come Sunday evening though when DeChambeau strolled up the final fairway with a six shot lead.
DeChambeau has documented his process of putting on muscle to increase his ball speed to levels never previously seen on the PGA Tour. Some purists claim that this is a one-dimensional style of golf which lacks guile and skill. Try swinging a driver with 5.5 degrees of loft as fast as DeChambeau and see how much skill it requires just to get the ball airborne. He also displayed plenty of touch around the greens when required and putted well, so he really was the full package in New York.
Matthew Wolff, who began the final round on -5, two shots ahead of DeChambeau, had a Sunday to forget but was the only player other than DeChambeau not to finish over par for the tournament. It is sometimes said that DeChambeau is playing a different game to his rivals with his power, single length irons and unique approach. It certainly looked that way at Winged Foot.
2019: Gary Woodland
Any U.S. Open win is special but in the same way that an Open win means that little bit more at St Andrews, there is something extra special about lifting the U.S. Open trophy at Pebble Beach. That’s what Gary Woodland was able to do at the iconic venue where he was the only player to finish ahead of Brooks Koepka, who came so close to an historic third straight U.S. Open victory.
Woodland may have never won a major championship before but he is an experienced golfer and was able to lean into that experience at Pebble Beach. Where several before him have crumbled under the pressure of trying to get over the line in one of golf’s biggest events, Woodland seemed to get stronger with every challenge.
His game wasn’t perfect – nobody’s can be at Pebble Beach – but he quickly realised that the course was set up well to suit. Woodland was able to utilise his power both off the tee and on the occasions he found himself in the rough, muscling through the thick grass better than almost anybody else. He was also more comfortable on the Poa Annua greens than his competitors as he showed when holing a monster putt on his final hole when three putts would have sufficed. A very stylish way to land your first major.
2018: Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka cut his teeth in professional golf on the Challenge Tour in Europe. Leaving home and playing on such a vast array of golf courses made him a better all-round golfer than if he had stayed in America and yet it is the U.S. Open where he rules. Koepka became just the third player to successfully defend his U.S. Open title, joining Ben Hogan and Curtis Strange after grinding it out at Shinnecock Hills to win with a score of +1.
The USGA get a lot of criticism for their hosting of the U.S. Open but they emerged with real credit both for the choice of Shinnecock Hills and the way they set the course up. Their goal is always to defend par where possible so they’ll have been very happy with Koepka’s winning score. Not everybody in the field was happy with the positioning of some of the pins or the speed of the greens given the difficult conditions throughout but it produced a very watchable golf tournament which felt like a proper U.S. Open.
The final round saw Koepka start as part of a four-way tie for the lead alongside Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson and Daniel Berger, with each player on +3. None of those three were able to match Koepka’s -2 final round and in the end it was Tommy Fleetwood who came closest to stopping his title defence. Unfortunately for the Southport man, after making four straight birdies between 12 and 15 he just couldn’t find the one extra shot he needed to force a playoff.
2017: Brooks Koepka
There was a time that golf fans and administrators used to worry about the future of the sport when Tiger Woods leaves the stage. Many felt that his dominance and impact on sponsors and fans was so great that surely the game would suffer when he stopped winning. What nobody realised at the time was that Woods would actually solve the problem himself by inspiring a whole generation of kids to take up golf and thus help to produce a greater strength in depth than the sport has seen before. The 2017 U.S. Open was the sixth major in a row in which Woods did not compete and yet each of them was won by a first time major champion.
Brooks Koepka held his nerve to become the latest first time winner of a big one at Erin Hills. His winning margin of four strokes does not tell the full story though. Koepka began the final round one off the lead held by Brian Harman and even when he took the lead he was being chased by a large pack. It was only a run of three straight birdies from 14 through to 16 that finally broke the resistance of those in pursuit.
This was a great day for American golf as nine of the top 11 players were playing on home soil. Hideki Matsuyama, who tied Harman for second place, and Tommy Fleetwood flew the flag for the international challengers but this was very much a big W for the home team.